Uzbek, Kazakh, and Kirghiz

A recent What Language Is This post featured Uzbek. A commenter just got the correct answer today. Hence it is time for a post on Uzbek and two neighboring Turkic languages, Kazakh and Kirghiz.

Uzbek

Uzbek. Uzbek is a well-developed language. I see scholarly papers written in Uzbek. In addition, Uzbek is two separate languages. The well known language to the north, Northern Uzbek, that is the official language of a nation and another language to south, Southern Uzbek, spoken by 2.5 million people in Afghanistan, which has no official status. The two  Uzbeks are not mutually intelligible.

Kazakh

Kazakh has a lot of problems. A lot of people don’t speak it, and there are many ethnic Russians who speak Russian there. They live in the north. There was a lot of talk of them leaving with the independence of Kazakhstan, but most of them stayed. Insane Russian ultranationalists claim the northern part of Kazakhstan for the Russians and wish to incorporate it into Russia (just to show you how insane those lunatics are). A lot of people would rather speak Russian than Kazakh, even a lot of ethnic Kazakhs.

They have had a hard time developing Kazakh into a full modern language, and there are a lot of issues with Kazakh in the schools. Furthermore, there has been profound Russian influence on the language in terms of vocabulary, phonology, and possibly morphology.

There are many Kazakh speakers in China, over 2 million of them. They have gotten caught up in the Uyghur political mess.

New information shows that they speak a separate language from Kazakh in Kazakhstan. So many Russian words have gone into Kazakh since World War 2 that Kazakh speakers in China can no longer understand the Kazakh TV and radio broadcasts which can be heard in China. Therefore, Chinese Kazakh is a separate language, and within Macro-Kazakh, there are two languages, Kazakh and Chinese Kazakh. I didn’t get this new information in time to incorporate it into my book chapter published in a recent book (Lindsay 2016) when I redid the Turkic language family, creating a number of new languages.

Kirghiz

First of all, it is not entirely certain that Kazakh and Kirghiz are separate languages.  In my book chapter (Lindsay 2016), I decided that this was one language called Kirghiz-Kazakh, with two separate languages, Kirghiz and Kazakh. This is because they are largely mutually intelligible. However the communication is more one way than two ways. I believe that the Kazakhs can understand the Kirghiz well, but the Kirghiz have some problems understanding Kazakh. However the difficulties were not great enough for me to split it into a separate language.

However via communication with a Kazakh speaker, he insisted that Kazakh and Kirghiz were definitely separate languages. I forget the reasoning but he had an intuitive sense of whether a pair of languages consisted of one being a dialect of the other or whether they were two separate languages.

That is, native speakers have excellent intuition on the language/dialect question, which shows how preposterous the Linguistics profession is that the language/dialect split is not a scientific question. If it’s not a scientific question, how is it that native speakers the world over have an intuition over whether a lect is a separate language or a dialect of another language? Apparently humans have excellent intuitions about things that simply do not exist in a scientific sense. Who knew?

Kirghiz has a lot of problems. I think just about everyone speaks it, but the problem is the language is not well developed into a modern language yet, so all sorts of technical and modern terms have had to be invented. Even whole new dictionaries have been created. Bottom line is Kirghiz is not really ready to serve the functions of a national language even for the state. I believe they might use Russian, instead but I am not certain.

References

Lindsay, Robert. 2016. “Mutual Intelligibility among the Turkic Languages,” in Süer Eker and Ülkü Şavk. Çelik. Endangered Turkic Languages, Volume I: Theoretical and General Approaches: Before the Last Voices Are Gone (Tehlİkedekİ Türk Dİllerİ Cİlt I: Kuramsal Ve Genel Yaklaşimlar Son Sesler Duyulmadan), Ankara, Turkey/Astana, Kazakhstan: International Turkish-Kazakh University and International Turkic Academy.

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